Sunday, 6 April 2014


22nd - 24th Mar 2014

General Julio Argentino Roca 
Another comfortable bus (semi-cama upstairs) departing 0900hrs from Santiago Terminal Sur for the 13 hour trip south to Osorno. No food served on this one but I had, fortuitously, brought victuals with me; beer and snacks.
The journey took us through flat countryside via Talca and the Maule Valley, the epicentre of Chilean wineries. This was also near the epicentre of the great earthquake in 2010 which wreaked considerable destruction in the area now, seemingly, repaired.

There were continual reminders of what must have been an impressive (British built and run) railway back in the early 20th century. This railway bridge (left) was one of many remaining examples on the long since defunct rail system. Buses now rule OK.

South from Talca and on towards Temuco where the countryside becomes increasingly hilly and wooded with much arable farming. There were lots of timber-yards and evidence of 'logging' enterprises. Temulco is another city associated with that infamous poet, Pablo Neruda (see Valparíso), who had another house here. He wrote the immortal lines "This is the Wild West where immortal warriors lie". This is probably in recognition of the fact that the area is the Home HQ of the Mapuche nation, much reduced now thanks to Spanish eradication in the 19th century. Franky, I don't think dear old Pablo knew whether it was Christmas or breakfast time.

Arrived in Osorno and to a rather modest hotel, the Hotel Edviges (right) at 2200hrs. Osorno is merely a transport hub and doesn't even get a glowing write-up in the Lonely Planet (a guide which always manages to find a favourable description of even the most dire towns). 
The only things of note I observed in this town, and only here overnight, was a surprising number of scabby stray dogs littering the streets, the number of German sounding places and the fact that most of the houses were built in the American 'clapboard' style...all wooden.

Left: A typical Osorno wooden clapboard street. I went for a late supper (steak as always) in one of few places still open and continually had to avoid tripping over foul looking scabrous mutts bedded down on the pavements. Can't think why they put up with them. 

On the next morning, Sunday, the place was a ghost town. More dogs than humans were in evidence. 
Back on a bus for the 6 hour journey onwards to Bariloche and the return to Argentina. The top floor of the bus was entirely inhabited by a party of elderly Japs, and me. It resembled the retreat from Okinawa.
The journey east was to take us across an Andes pass, much lower than the one from Mendoza, which was spectacularly beautiful. Before we reached it, however, the bus 'hostie' introduced a game of Bingo. We were all issued with Bingo cards and me, who speaka nada Español, thought that I would be at a serious disadvantage. Fortunately so did the Japs. They had a rather charming young guide who spoke good Spanish, and Japanese of course, but not much English. She had a Japanese friend who spoke good English, but not Spanish. Anyway, between them they relayed the numbers, 'two fat ladies, 99' etc., into Japanese and English. Much frantic ticking off of numbers and, eventually, one of the Japs won; a bottle of wine. He then proceeded to share it out and, because I was the only non-Jap, was given the lion's share. "arigatou gozaimesu" indeed. I didn't mention the battle of Kandaw in Burma (Jan 1945) nor the fact that one of them might have been responsible for shooting my father 'up the Irrawaddy' there (some of them were old enough to have done so).

As mentioned, the journey east through the Andes here was scenically spectacular amongst rocky pine forests and towering mountains. I dread to think what the great Pablo Neruda would have said. Something along the lines of "A dinnae ken whahay the noo, up yer kilt ya silly moo" or some such, knowing him, in his more sober periods.
The most interesting aspect was the remaining damage done to the environment by the big 'Puyehue-Cordón Caulle' volcano eruption, near by, in 2011. Trees are left dead and stripped of foliage (right).

.....and piles of volcanic ash still line the road, up to a height of 6ft. (bad photo left).

Talking of volcanic eruptions, I read somewhere that more CO2 gas is emitted by just one of these eruptions than the whole CO2 emissions of the entire industrial world in five years. Don't know whether that's true, but it deserves consideration when politicians (and the ICCC) bark on about 'cutting down' on our human made CO2. I suspect we are 'pissing in the wind' when it comes to reducing man-made CO2. Nature produces much, much more

Right: More pretty scenery en-route.

Left: A lake on the approach to Bariloche. Reminds me, slightly, of the South Island, New Zealand.
Arrived in Bariloche at 1600hrs and booked in, by sheer chance, to a great little hotel the 'Hotel Tirol'. Much recommended if you are passing. The Japs all went off following their flag waving leader, amongst cries of banzai, to wherever Japs go to in these places (it must be on their 'list').

Bariloche is a very 'touristy' place and has an almost Alpine feel to it. Further revelations to follow.

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